We’ve invited our wonderful Engagers to contribute reflections, articles, musings, etc., to our blog on a monthly basis! First up, Engager Minna Taylor. Read on, and don’t forget to subscribe to our blog via Bloglovin. – Erin
I was down in South Carolina with my parents over Thanksgiving. They are solidly in the baby-boomer generation and I am grateful for that. Anyone under 35 can appreciate our parents’ endearing curiosity about the latest gadgets that so far exceed their formative expectation of what technology could offer, that their engagement with said devices is what you expect from a child of my generation’s fascination with dial-up internet – the wonder it beholds! However, regardless of the technological acquisition (my mother is an avid Amazon shopper), they maintain a high level of analog nostalgia. They read the printed paper every morning, including completion of the crossword. They clip articles and mail them to me. They write letters. They have a landline telephone. Despite my awe at my mother’s crossword prowess, it was the telephone that spawned my consideration.
Much of my investigation into modern methods of communication has been on the loss of interpersonal comfortability and freedom in vocal expressiveness. There are a myriad of variables contributing to this social atrophy – fear, advertising, expectation of immediate gratification, privacy invasion – but I propose that it all began with the daily integration of our cellular devices. As advancements were made in our digital connectivity, so began the degradation of human connectivity. It has reached such an alarming degree that I assert many of us can go days – if not weeks – without engaging in truly meaningful conversation. That level of intimate sharing and presence is becoming an experience relegated to fairytales and John Hughes movies. We are losing the ability to say hello with an openness and allowance that was once standard engagement.
As I watched my parents pick up phone call after phone call, I began to consider the frequency with which I actually spoke to others in my life. My parents were expressing sincere interest and investment in the the conversations they were having. There is no way to compensate for that energetic sharing over text or email. No emoticon can represent the sparkle in my mother’s laugh or the warmth in my father’s tone. That is communication beyond the words and the level of communication that has now become reserved for the big things – birth, death, and marriage. It feels intimate to use our voices. To call?! To pick up the phone?! To consider taking some one’s time, anxiously waiting to say hello, all while secretly wishing that the savior of voice mail will prevent the firm, unquestioning attempt at contact with that person?! You commit to the following in a phone call: I want to talk to you. I am demanding your participation in a dialogue. You matter to me. I want to matter to you …
Let’s not, as we enter a new year, lose sight of the importance to exercise actions that make us human. We must reinvest in play, curiosity, patience, and community. The emotional and psychological effort required to make contact is a reflection of a constitution that is unexercised – atrophied. Slowly begin to integrate deliberate points of human contact and that fear you feel, that anxiety of engaging other people, will melt away. We will rediscover that we are all human and possibly empower ourselves to connect, embrace, and evolve toward a reintroduction of our basic right to use our voice and express ourselves freely. Go forth and engage.